The sitting of the National Assembly held Aug. 10 involved an advancement in the current governments good governance agenda by the second tabling of three bills: the Public Accounts Committee Bill, The Escrow Accounts Bill and the Legal Profession Amendment Bill, among others.
The Public Accounts Committee Bill seeks to change the impact the public accounts committee has on governance. Speaking at his monthly press conference Aug. 2, the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris outlined the importance of this establishment.
“This is a landmark bill in the context of our effort to bring the affairs of the government in the sunshine of public scrutiny and accountability,” he said. “Before our coming into office, there was a public accounts committee, but there was not one single report ever made to the parliament, it was like having a football team that never played the match.”
This committee’s responsibilities involved oversight and examination of government accounts and spending to ensure the government was spending money where it should have been. According to Harris, it did not accomplish its goals.
The opposition party has declared it will not support the bill. MP of the St. Kitts Nevis Labour Party, Marcella Liburd, announced when speaking with Freedom FM while she accused the government of reducing the power of the committee.
“All of the duties that were under the Public Accounts Committee in this act have been removed and replaced,” Liburd said. “This [bill] has seriously watered down the scope of what the public account committee is really supposed to do.”
The Escrow Accounts Bill has been introduced to provide guidelines to reinforce the agreements made under the Citizenship by Investment Programme. It establishes a minimum standard for an escrow account that must be received by any applicant for the Citizenship by Investment Programme in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“We’ve had instances where citizenship has been granted and the investment money would have been purported to have been received and the development is not completed,” Senior Government Minister Vance Amory said. “[This bill] is to ensure that the use of those funds as indicated by the developer and on behalf of the applicant are used for the purpose for which it is intended.”
The Legal Profession Amendments Bill is purposed to replace sections of the already existing act to establish different guidelines for the disciplinary committee, establishing an appointment by the chief justice and consisting of eight people. The amendment would also change the powers of the chief justice, allowing him to remove people from the committee at his discretion.
All three of these bills were introduced for the first time at the previous meeting of the national assembly on July 10 and are being re-tabled for discussion. The conclusion of the assembly was held too late for print, so check back next week for an update on the discussions that took place.